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Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, I shall speak briefly to the amendment to reinforce what the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, said. Clearly, there must be redress if there are errors on orders; if orders are unreasonable, they must also be open to challenge and redress. If that cannot be done, that leaves those who want to appeal in a difficult situation, as the noble Baroness said.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I fear that neither the noble Lord nor the noble Baroness have really heard what I said. There may well be queries about appeals against the Environment Agency; I think that the comments of my noble friend Lord Borrie in the Moses Room largely related to that.

I could go into a long riposte in defence of the protection that we have against inequitable decisions by the Environment Agency, but the point tonight is that reinserting the clause that the Commons want to remove would be of no benefit in relation to the Environment Agency. It relates to Ofwat, as I thought that the noble Baroness recognised in her remarks, and therefore does not meet any of the objections to which the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, or the noble Baroness, in the latter part of her remarks, referred. It is not logical for us to pursue the matter at this stage.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response, although I am not thrilled with it. If he says that that is factually correct and that I am under a misunderstanding, which I think he is suggesting, we have clarified that the provision does not refer to the Environment Agency. I am happy with that. Even if it

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is Ofwat, that body will still be the judge and jury, will it not? That is the point that I am trying to make. I have accepted that perhaps we were at cross purposes, because in Committee we were getting confused over whose responsibility it was—whether it was the Environment Agency's, or not. I have accepted that, and it does not worry me. What does worry me, however, is that Ofwat will still be the judge and jury unless the Minister is telling me otherwise. That is the point that I am trying to make.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, recognised, there are already grounds for appeal against Ofwat if it exceeds its powers, perhaps due to making a mistake, to the application of the law to the facts, or to administrative error. The noble Lord, Lord Livsey, says that those are restrictive powers, but they are substantial powers of appeal and they are already there. If the proposal applied literally to Ofwat, it would duplicate the powers that already exist in the existing legislation. However, most of the arguments in support of the noble Baroness, which were made at previous stages, related in fact to grievances with the Environment Agency's decisions, not with Ofwat's.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, perhaps it would be better at this stage of the Bill not to press the matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 36A, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 36, by leave withdrawn.

On Question, Motion agreed to.


37Clause 38, page 41, leave out lines 4 to 6 and insert— "( ) The Council shall exercise and perform its powers and duties in the manner which it considers is best calculated to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development."

38Page 41, line 13, after "or", insert "by"
39Clause 42, page 47, line 5, after "or", insert "by"
40Page 47, line 22, leave out "(3)" and insert "(4)"
41Page 47, line 24, leave out "(3)" and insert "(4)"
42Page 47, line 26, leave out "(3)" and insert "(4)"
43Clause 47, page 57, line 36, leave out "such"
44Clause 50, page 60, line 14, leave out "Office of Fair Trading" and insert "OFT"
45Clause 57, page 71, line 8, leave out "14A and 14B" and insert "16A and 16B"
46Clause 58, page 74, line 32, leave out "has been" and insert "is"
47Page 74, line 35, leave out from "which" to "within" in line 36 and insert "such a direction may be given"
48Clause 60, page 75, line 37, at end insert— "( ) Any such proceedings by the Assembly may be instituted and carried on in the name of the Chief Inspector of Drinking Water for Wales, if there is one (or, if subsection (1B)(b) above applies, in the name of the Chief Inspector of Drinking Water)."

49Page 76, leave out lines 3 to 5

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their

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Amendments Nos. 37 to 49. Amendment No. 37 reshapes the sustainable development duty on the Consumer Council, bringing it into line with the duty imposed on the authority, and reconfirms our commitment to sustainable development, which all sides of the House welcomed as a feature throughout the passage of the Bill.

The remaining amendments, Amendments Nos. 38 to 49, are minor drafting amendments that tidy up and update the text of the Bill, and do not raise any substantive points.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 37 to 49.—(Lord Whitty.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


50Clause 61, page 76, line 28, leave out from "until" to end of line 30 and insert "an indemnity with respect to the arrangements has been given by virtue of section 90 below—
(a) to the water undertaker; and
(b) to any licensed water supplier which is entitled to one."

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 50. I shall speak also to Commons Amendments Nos. 51 to 79. Most of the amendments deal with the fluoridation issue.

Amendment No. 50 and the remaining amendments ensure that there are no disincentives to water suppliers bidding to supply water in a fluoridated area by providing for them, as well as for strategic health authorities, to be indemnified against liabilities arising from the fluoridation in the water supply that they provide. The remaining amendments in the group deal with various aspects of ensuring that the fluoridation consultation and operation are undertaken in line with what the Government intend. That meets some of the concerns that may lay behind Amendment No. 50A. We do not believe that they would be dealt with by that amendment, which would effectively put the power into the hands of the local authorities rather than the strategic health authority.

At a previous stage, the House supported the option of fluoridation for the strategic health authorities, and the amendments tidy up and protect that situation. With Amendment No. 50A, we would be moving into another direction entirely in relation to the fluoridation issue.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 50 to 79.—(Lord Whitty.) MOTION MOVED ON CONSIDERATION OF COMMONS AMENDMENT NO. 50

50AClause 61, Line 2, at end insert "providing that the opinion referred to in section 89(1)(a) has been gained by the principal local authorities in the area in question"

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, I beg to move, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 50, Amendment No. 50A.

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Amendment No. 50A states:

    "Line 2, at end insert 'providing that the opinion referred to in section 89(1)(a) has been gained by the principal local authorities in the area in question'";

in other words, the local community must be questioned to establish its views on the fluoridation issue. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, intended to move this amendment but she is unable to do so. I have done a fair amount of homework on the matter and I shall do my best in presenting it to the House.

I refer to the whole question of indemnity. Indemnity should be provided only when fluoridation is the clear wish of a community to be affected. Local authorities are clearly best placed to test that opinion. They have no axe to grind, unlike strategic health authorities which are promoters and judges of opinion.

I would not have returned to this subject except that the Commons had a big vote on this point. The result, 200 to 243, constituted possibly the smallest majority that the Government have had on anything since 1997. Honourable Members in another place clearly hoped that we would tackle this matter.

As my honourable friend the Member for Lewes, Norman Baker, said, local authorities might not be perfect but they are local, democratically elected and accountable, which is more than can be said of strategic health authorities. Indeed, Mr Wiggin MP stated that strategic health authorities are neither democratically elected nor accountable. Their accountability comes only through the Secretary of State, which is not a direct local mechanism. They do not match up with the Government's insistence on local consultation.

The situation that I am discussing allows for local referendums in the areas of local authorities. The indemnity will kick in only if local authorities have tested public opinion. It is extraordinary that the Government in the House of Commons would not accept the principle that local authorities could decide whether or not to add fluoride to a public water supply in their locality without first testing local opinion.

There is no doubt that fluoride has a beneficial effect on teeth, but no one truly knows what side-effects the addition of fluoride may have on a wide spectrum of aspects of human health. Indeed, this is a matter on which science is inconclusive. As we know, there are supporters of both sides of the argument.

The important point about the amendment is that it gives the residents of an area a vital element of choice on whether or not to have fluoride added to the local water supply. The Government ignore that principle at their peril.

Moved, That Amendment No. 50A, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 50, be agreed to.—(Lord Livsey of Talgarth.)

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9 p.m.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, on Amendment No. 50A. The noble Lord said that he considered that the responsibility for deciding whether fluoride should be added to a local water supply should lie with local authorities.

We debated this matter at length during the Bill's passage through this House. As it was suggested that the responsibility in this regard should lie with the strategic health authorities, I decided to table an amendment to the relevant health Bill to try to obtain greater clarification on that responsibility. In the end, we still do not know how they will achieve getting a public view. What came out of that is that there will not be a local referendum, as the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, may not be surprised to know. That is the one fact that has clearly come out of discussions both at earlier stages of this Bill and when I spoke on the health Bill.

Again, we were told that the decision would be made by regulation. I do not know how many times when we debate matters in this House, particularly when we have the opportunity to put something in a Bill, we are told that they will come through by regulation. To have to accept that again is yet another time that it is unacceptable, certainly to us on these Benches and I suspect to colleagues on the Liberal Benches as well.

Voting in the House of Commons was really quite close, and many questions are still unanswered. I hope that noble Lords will not mind if I take a minute or two to raise some of them again. Only recently it was claimed by Dr Dean Burk, who has worked with the National Cancer Institute in America for the past 35 years, that it is possible that fluoride is killing up to 2,000 people per year. He gave the All-Party Fluoridation Group a hearing in a House of Commons meeting, and said that the American evidence showed a significantly higher cancer death rate in fluoridated areas.

There was also evidence of higher incidence of breast, colon, rectum, kidney and thyroid cancers in Britain's fluoridated areas. Mr Lawrence said that many MPs were appalled at the complete refusal of Britain's medical hierarchy to recognise the evidence when challenged on fluoride's absolute safety. He went on to say:

    "The arrogance of those who blundered in giving their endorsement to the safety of thalidomide, asbestos and other disasters"—

to which I might add BSE—"seems to be boundless".

This is really our last chance to try to persuade the Minister that the matter should not be left to strategic health authorities that are not elected. Instead, the role should be transferred to local government. People in local government are obviously elected in a proper manner. They are not there because they are asked to serve on the health authority. We feel very strongly that the Minister might consider that in the light of the evidence.

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When we debated the issue earlier in this House, reference was made to the research undertaken at York. In fact, many have questioned that research as being inadequate. I press the Minister again tonight to tell us what research has been undertaken since the York experience. Is the matter something that the Government think of concern, or do they say that the claim made by that American is completely unfounded? We really do not know, and have no evidence at all in support of the Government's persistence that fluoride is the best way.

I accept and have accepted all along that fluoride can make a difference to people, and to children's teeth particularly. However, fluoride toothpaste makes a difference, too. Why have the Government not come forward with any facts to support their view that fluoride addition to the water has no side effects that support our concerns?

Tonight I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Livsey—the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, is quite right to be silent at the moment. I question the grounds on which the Government base their assumptions. I support the amendment.

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